It’s been a while (almost five years…but who’s counting!) since we were joined on DN by French graphic designer and animator Kadavre Exquis, but although we haven’t featured him on our site, we’ve been following his career with great interest. Joining us today to discuss finding time for personal projects, releasing films directly online and more, it’s great to welcome Kadavre back to Directors Notes to talk about his latest film .MP4
.MP4 is made-up of a series of vignettes featuring Jesus, karaoke, crying girls and of course Donald Trump, where did the desire to make this film come from and what was your aim in creating it?
Probably this needs a bit of context; the truth is my last personal release was in 2013 with LSD ABC (co-directed with Laura Sicouri). Since then, I have been pretty busy working here and there and it started to be a bit hard to find time to create for myself. I have been trying, but most of my projects were moving towards something too ambitious to be done alone or I was stopped by work and the project would grow bad in my head, which would result in me leaving it aside.
.MP4 was born very randomly in the Parisian metro and I just dove into it without really planning too much. However this time,I wanted to talk about stuff that was moving me, in good or bad ways. In the end, the film is pretty introspective but obviously, it reflects a lot of those modern excitements and fears that a lot of people have in common, especially since we share the same pretty fucked-up world and system.
The structure of the film is pretty eccentric, from jumbled chapter titles to diverse subject matter, was there a particular journey you wanted to take the viewer on and how did you decide on the flow of the film?
In a way, this is due to the fact that I was getting bored very quickly; redrawing the same scene multiple times was kind of a pain to me, not always but this time I didn’t want to do that. Thus, to entertain myself and keep the same energy and desire while creating the film, I would constantly keep on creating new scenes within the film. I would go from mini-achievements to the final one when the film was complete.
I wanted a pace where you feel a bit like the late-and-stressed bunny of Alice in Wonderland.
This choice was also led by the fact that we are being targeted all the time, zapping songs, software, social networks, from mail to messenger, from phone to computer, there is something absurd and endless from which it is very hard to extract ourselves. I wanted a pace where you feel a bit like the late-and-stressed bunny of Alice in Wonderland which is such a prophetic character in a way.
Visually, the film sports a retro 8-bit style look, what was it about the aesthetic that appealed to you with this project?
Two reasons. Firstly it simplified the process of drawing and especially animation a lot. For me, it was like the day I discovered new possibilities thanks to 3D, I felt exactly the same. What was impossible or hard for me to produce alone was now conceivable.
I probably broke 1000 pixel art rules.
The second reason is geometric styling, I think I always had a thing for pixel art but without even knowing it. I have always been attracted by geometric shapes and how you can play to smooth them out so pixel art felt natural to me in a way; even if I probably broke 1000 pixel art rules, I still need to work at it a lot.
Can you tell us a bit about your production process, you did all the animation yourself? How long did this take and what tools did you use?
I did indeed do all the animations myself. I was planning on doing something quickly to prevent myself from being bored, but in the end, it took almost 3 months, 24/7, from start to finish..oops. Most of it was done using the classic Adobe suite. Another advantage with this technique which is not very demanding materially speaking. In the end the longest part was the beginning of the film, it was not supposed to be this at all, it was supposed to be this.
But I wanted people to be taken into the movie more drastically, so I started rebuilding what are now the first 45 seconds. BUT they were extremely time consuming, especially the music compilation, because we had to record the vocal parts and the voice over (Super thanks to Diane and Matt who really brought the thing to a next level). Finally I had to edit this and create the character designs and animations, probably the hardest parts to design and animate because they lasted so long on screen that they needed “special care” to not screw the whole film.
Hardest scenes to animate, or at least the one which took quite some time:
- Compilation which is a combination of 8 cuts lasting around 30 secs
- Young and restless parody (this one is for my Grandma) (00:08 in the film, it is not so obvious maybe)
- The voicemail
- Karaoke sequence, super hard compositing sequence it took me around 3-4 days from start to finish
Again you created the music yourself, what was the goal you set yourself with the soundtrack and what do you feel the audio elements adds to your piece?
Huh, I had practically no limits, the goal was to enjoy every moment in the making, my only regret is that I kind of based all the edit over tempo because it would be way easier for me to re-order sequences or scenes. For instance, the timers were supposed to appear at 1:01 and 2:02, but because everything was evolving all the time, I had to change the timing over the production.
Festivals were reaching out to me after the online release.
Looking at your release of .MP4, am I right in thinking you avoided the more traditional route of going to festivals and just released online? If so what made you take this decision and do you feel there were any advantages of releasing directly online?
Well, in 2012 when I finished Childhood of a Circle, I tried the regular way, meaning go to festivals first and then go online later. But when I knew the film wouldn’t go to Annecy, I decided I would go for an online release, also influenced by this old and very interesting article by Short of the Week’s Andrew Allen (Andrew if you read this, thanks a lot!).
The result for me was that festivals were reaching out to me after the online release, so from 2012 I’ve exclusively acted like this. Also as my films are self-produced, I can’t afford the cost of submission to all the festivals require. Not sure if this is the right move but so far, so good!
I believe this traditional way might be good for specific projects, but it affects a lot creators like myself who must be bound to this system (exclusivity, premiere, producer, communication dept, etc.) without any external assistance. Keeping the film offline for 1 or 2 years, and then when it is released the thing has aged as well, so it does not really represent who you are and what you do at the specific moment of the release.
What are you working on next?
There are actually other formats on their way, following the .MP4 path, but not sure when I will be done with them. I have a few leads already.
BTW, there are two easter eggs in this video, did you catch them?